What Is Moonlighting and Should You Do It?

Moonlighting means working a second job, usually night shifts (thus the name.) Should you do it, though?

Getting a second job or a side gig while you’re employed might seem like a good idea. It can earn you some extra money. You may even find it a fun thing to do.

But it may also get you in trouble if your full-time job employer finds out about it. So what do you do?

Let’s talk all about moonlighting and whether you could and should do it.

What Is Moonlighting Exactly, and Where Does the Term Come from?


Moonlighting refers to working two jobs at once. This can be done for financial reasons (to make ends meet) or because you enjoy both jobs equally.

The term moonlighting is an old one. It dates back to the 19th century. Then it to moonlight meant to commit crimes at night. The meaning changed to working a second job by moonlight in the 1950s.

Nowadays, moonlighting has become more common than ever before. People are now able to do it from home using the internet. Thus it’s a lot easier to get a gig or freelance as a second job.

Is Moonlighting Ethical?

Moonlighting is considered an ethical practice unless it’s against the agreement of your current main job. It’s not unethical to work a side gig or freelance or even hold a second job.

However, there are times when moonlighting turns into negative behavior. If you exhaust yourself during the extra hours in your moonlighting job, you may not be able to do a proper job for your main employer. That’s when the ethical line becomes blurry.

Are Companies Against Moonlighting?

It all depends on your agreement with your employer company. You might be allowed to do freelance writing while working full-time at your day job. You might even be able to take on side projects during normal office hours. 

There are companies that allow you to have second jobs, and then there are those that strictly prohibit it. So it’s all on a case-by-case basis.

Is Moonlighting Legal?

Moonlighting is defined as working outside your regular employment agreement. Many employers allow dual employment or moonlight. If your employer doesn’t allow that, you are in breach of your contract with them. However, it’s still not a crime even if you breach your contract (unless you’re doing something unlawful at the same time, such as fraud.)

Another case where you might get in legal trouble is if you have signed a non-compete agreement and your moonlighting job falls under its scope. 

Non-compete policies

A non-compete agreement will prohibit employees from doing the same work for another company or as a freelancer. It can also prevent them from using company resources such as equipment, software, and information. The employee may not use any confidential information they learned while employed. They may also be prohibited from soliciting clients who were customers of the business.

In this case, moonlighting could get you in legal trouble as you may be sued for breaching the non-compete contract.

In order to enforce a non-compete policy, employers are required to demonstrate that the employee actually stole confidential information while employed with the company. If the court finds that there is sufficient evidence to support a claim of theft, the judge may issue an injunction preventing the former employee from working for another company for a certain length of time.

Company Policies Concerning Moonlighting

Many companies have a written policy regarding moonlighting. This includes whether employees should moonlight, what constitutes moonlighting, how much notice must be given, etc.

However, there are many different types of moonlighting policies. Some companies have very strict policies, while others allow it without restrictions. Here are some examples of moonlighting policies:

  • “Employees shall not engage in moonlighting activities.”
  • “Employees may engage in moonlighting activities during normal working hours.”
  • “Employee may engage in moonlighting activity up to 10% of his/her work week.”
  • “Employers may prohibit moonlighting activities.”

In addition to having a written policy, most companies require approval prior to moonlighting. If you do moonlight, make sure you inform your employer about it. You don’t want to find yourself in hot water because you didn’t tell anyone.

If you violate the policy, you could face disciplinary action, including termination. Depending on the type of violation, you might receive a warning letter, suspension, or even termination.

Moonlighting When Working a Remote Job

According to a survey by Resume Builder, 7 in 10 remote workers are moonlighting. The reasons why people moonlight vary greatly. Some people moonlight because they need extra income to pay bills.

Others moonlight because they enjoy their current jobs but feel like they aren’t being challenged enough. Still, other people moonlight because they want to try out new things or simply explore career options. This, however, may shortchange employers. 

So if you’re considering moonlighting, think twice before you take the plunge. Make sure you discuss your plans with your boss first so that you won’t end up getting fired.

Examples of Moonlighting

Here are some popular moonlighting examples:

  • Waiting tables
  • Taking on freelance projects
  • Selling items online
  • Writing articles
  • Tutoring students
  • Consulting

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